KARATE kids now have a smart new look – after their instructor made an appeal on social networking website Facebook to get them suits for competitions.
John Kobierowski, who instructs weekly classes at the Zest Centre, in Upperthorpe, said when he started the sessions around three months ago ‘virtually none’ of the youngsters could afford proper karate suits.
“I made an appeal on Facebook for people who had spare suits, which are called dogis, to get in touch. I was only expecting second-hand ones.”
But instead, he was offered 20 brand new suits worth hundreds of pounds by Alan Campbell, who runs a karate club in Nottingham.
John was also sent seven suits by Luis Bastidas Teke, of JKA Rotherham Karate Club, and donations of new suits came flooding in from as far afield as Alsager, in Cheshire, and Leeds.
He has also received other donations of suits, too.
John, aged 54, said: “They were all given to us free of charge. It was a brilliant response and I did not expect my appeal to be so successful.
“Having the suits means the kids can participate in competitions and also helps their self-esteem.”
John, who also runs karate sessions in schools around the city, was asked to run the sessions at Zest by retired South Yorkshire Police chief inspector Nev Hamilton.
Mr Hamilton, who runs South Yorkshire Shotokan Karate approached Zest about setting up a club as a way of diverting youngsters away from crime and disorder.
It led to a partnership being set up between South Yorkshire Shotokan Karate and Kathryn Mudge from Zest.
Zest provided the funding and Mr Hamilton licenced the club through the Amateur Martial Association.
John said: “The club is in a deprived area which has problems with gangs.
“I aim to help the young people by giving them a fun activity so they do not hang around the streets and get into trouble.”
The club at Zest now has around 35 members and is split into groups for fours-to-sevens and sevens-to- 16-year-olds.
Classes are at Zest on Tuesday afternoons with fours-to-sevens at 4pm and sevens to 16s from 4.30pm to 5.30pm.
John said he is now looking for sponsorship so he can put on a second weekly session.
■ For information about karate at Zest, call 0114 2702040. John also has a Facebook page – Sheffield Kick Shotokan Karate club.